Tour du Mont Blanc refuges

One of my favourites things about the Tour du Mont Blanc, other than the quite spectacular scenery, were the seven refuges I stayed at. A concept that doesn’t really exist in New Zealand where I’ve done most of my hiking, these are effectively hostels in the mountains that provide a bed, pillow and duvet / blanket (in bunk rooms and often smaller / individual rooms), half board (three course dinner and breakfast), and usually hot showers and spectacular views. All for between €40 and €60 a night. Within these characteristics the seven I stayed at were quite different and memorable, all with their own pros and cons.

Refuge de Tré la Tête (1,970m) – Stages 1/2
Atmospheric refuge on a ridge overlooking Les Contamines
Pros – wonderful views, friendly host, good food, best hot showers (probably as I wasn’t expecting them)
Cons – ~800m ascent / descent detour from the main Tour route, no wifi

Refuge Robert Blanc (2,750m) – Stages 2/3
A true alpine experience, higher than the highest parts of the Tour, hard work to get to but worth it. Note the route to / from Col de la Seigne is technical in places, with chains and ropes, and in bad or likely to turn weather you shouldn’t attempt to reach the refuge, it’d be potentially lethal in the wet
Pros – truely spectacular views, atmospheric
Cons – ~1,000m ascent / descent detour from the main Tour Route, no showers, no wifi / signal, fair weather access only

Rifugio Monte Bianco (1,670m) – Stages 4/5
Large refuge (in Italy so it’s an Rifugio) about 5km up the road from Courmayeur
Pros – view of Glacier de la Brenva directly across the valley from the refuge, wifi (but increasingly slow to point of unusable as people arrived), good drying room
Cons – food very average, dinner served relatively lack (7.30pm rather than usual 7pm), facilities basic

Gîte Alpage de La Peule (2,071m) – Stages 6/7
A summer diary farm just over the border in Switzerland from Grand Col Ferret
Pros – atmospheric (cows outside that provide the milk and cheese served), good food
Cons – no wifi, single large bunk room (though heavy wooden structure helped deaden noise of snorers)

Relais d’Arpette (1,627) – Stages 7/8
Relatively flash and well equipped refuge in an idyllic spot
Pros – views up the valley toward the Fenetre d’Arpette, small bunk rooms (six person), good facilities (only place I stayed which had more than two showers), reasonable wifi
Cons – bit of a detour from the main route if you’re not taking the tough Fenetre d’Arpette variant, food very average

Gîte d’Alpage Les Ecuries de la Charamillon (1,850m) – Stages 9/10
Unexpectedly good refuge half way up a ski field, small and personable
Pros – good food, views of Mont Blanc and valley toward Chamonix below, by far the best wifi, relaxed atmosphere
Cons – longest distance between the bunk rooms and the toilets, not the most comfortable beds

Refuge Flegere (1,875m) – Stages 10/11
The most expensive refuge (€60) but definitely not the best, though I was quite tired by this point
Pros – views of Mont Blanc across the valley and Chamonix below
Cons – no drinkable water (you’re provided 1.5 litres of water, €3 for extra bottles), very average food, no wifi, noisy in the night (creaking floorboards)

Author: jontycrane

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